Thursday, July 17, 2014
Broadway Baby Says Goodnight...
Sad hearts on the Rialto tonight, kids, and no mistake about that. One of the ever-fewer number of truly Great Dames has up and left us. Dammit.
Others will say more, and more eloquently, than could I about the force of nature that was Elaine Stritch, and there will be countless replayings of "Ladies Who Lunch," "I'm Still Here," and maybe even her breakthrough hit, "Civilization" (with its deathless lyric "Bingo bango bongo/I don't want to leave the Congo"...). So let's instead catch her here, in antic mood, wooed by an unlikely suitor (not to mention the ex-husband of the star for whom once she understudied, the Merm herself). It's an odd little clip, highlighting how very unsubtle an instrument the lady wielded - but in the end, nobody did it just her way.
I had the great good fortune to hear her once or twice, at concert galas and even once, treasurably, at the Carlyle. In person, her "Ladies" was a monologue of Shakespearian proportion, thunderous, whispered, crooned, shouted and wholly, totally lived. By contrast, to be frank, I never quite bought her "I'm Still Here." That's the anthem of a cosmopolitan woman, world-weary, and Stritch was, oddly - despite being, among many other things a consummate survivor, a Coward protégée, and, for a while, a star on British TV - neither. She was a Manhattan baby through-and-through (as only a little girl from Detroit could be), and forever entirely engaged with life, now. What the hell did she care about Windsor and Wallie's affair? She wanted to know last week's grosses at the Winter Garden, and who was going to nab that good part in next season's Albee. She was no sleek Carlotta Campion; she was, to tell the truth, nobody but Elaine Stritch.
But that's a very great deal more than most, and, to resurrect the hoariest of clichés, we shall not see her like again.